Standing Forward Bend With Arms Raised Overhead and Behind

Doing the following variation on the Standing Forward Bend will help to open your heart, as well as help stretch out your chest area after a day of sitting stooped over a desk at the office.

Assume an erect standing position, such as Mountain Pose (Fig., page 115). Separate your feetso that they are parallel and hip-width apart. Keeping your arms straight, move them back behind you. Bring your palms together and interlace your fingers behind your back. Inhale as you arch your chest and the front of your pelvic basin forward, letting your neck roll gently backward so that your nose tilts toward the ceiling. (If you experience any neck problems, be careful not to arch your neck back too far.) Keep your arms as straight as possible, and, if you can, your palms pressed against one another throughout the remainder of the exercise. If this is too difficult for you, then simply interlock your fingers together without palms touching. Exhale as you bend forward from the hips allowing your upper

Fig. 14.3: Standing Forward Bend With Arms Raised Overhead and Behind body and head to lower toward the floor. As you lower your upper body, press your arms and hands out in back from you and away from your body, keeping your arms as straight as possible. Rotating your arms from the shoulders, press your hands as far in back of you as you can, then up toward the ceiling, and, if possible, out over your back so that they are pointing in front and away from your body (see Fig. 14.3). Breathe several full, deep rhythmic breaths in this position. Feel your heart center opening and expanding as your chest, shoulders, and even armpits expand and widen. To come out of this pose, inhale as you gently raise your upper body back to a full standing position while releasing your arms down along the sides of your body. Come back to Mountain Pose. Take several deep breaths in Mountain Pose as you take the time to be aware of how you feel. In particular, bring your awareness to your heart and chest area. In Sanskrit, this posture is referred to as uttanasana, or "intense stretch." How do you feel after this intense heart-opening stretch? Do you feel more open and expanded? Does your breathing feel different? Do you feel different? Do you perhaps feel more open to life's possibilities?

This is a simple yet powerful yoga pose that you can incorporate into your daily work life. It's a great exercise to do at work. Take a few minutes every now and then during the day to open your heart and stretch out your chest with this powerful yogic forward bend.

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